He'd given Malkom purpose. If not noble in blood, then in deed ...

But memories arose within him, sordid scenes with a vampire who'd used him for years. The feedings in the dark ... the way the master's skin would grow warm against his own. ...

No, no! "Do not do this thing, Kallen." Malkom's voice was hoarse. "Do not betray our friendship." Don't betray me.

"I am sorry," he said, his tone defeated. "I do not have a choice."

Kallen is all that is good. Though Malkom had vowed he would never be bitten again, he somehow held himself still as the prince's splayed fingers dug into his back, clutching him even closer.

A final sacrifice for my friend? Can I control my will to live?

Or would the prince's brutal guard dog finally turn on him?

When Malkom's jaw clenched, his every muscle tensing, Kallen rasped, "Steady, Malkom." Then he plunged his fangs into Malkom's neck, giving a wretched groan of pleasure as he sucked. And the sound was so familiar, the shuddering of his body just like the master's.

Kallen's chilled skin began to warm against Malkom's.

Betrayal. Rage erupted, and he roared with it. Cannot control this.

Seizing Kallen by the shoulders, Malkom shoved him back. He looked down at the prince and knew that, for him, this was the end. "Forgive me, brother. ..."


But those who betray me do it only once.

Chapter 2

Immortal Internment Compound

Present day

When Carrow Graie had awakened from her abduction a week ago, she'd had a raging headache, cotton mouth, and a metal collar affixed around her neck.

Things had only gone downhill from there.

Tonight I might be hitting rock bottom, she thought as warden Fegley - a billy club-carrying, no-balled loser - forced her down the corridor of cells to her doom.

"Dead Wicca walking," the centaurs' leader sneered from their cell as Carrow passed. He, like every other Lore creature imprisoned here in the immortal menagerie, suspected she was about to be offed.

"Shut the f**k up, Mr. Ed," she said, earning a harsh yank on her collar from Fegley. Glaring at the mortal, she struggled against her cuffs. "Once I get my powers back, Fugley, I'll curse you to fall in love. With your own bodily functions. If it comes out of your body, your heart will long for it."

"Then I guess I'm lucky you've got this on." He again jerked on the band at her neck - the mortals called it a tor"ue. It mystically nullified her abilities and weakened her physically. Every species here had been hobbled in some way, making them controllable, even by mortals like Fegley. "Besides, witch, what makes you so sure you're going to make it past the next hour?"

If these people execute me, I'm going to be sooo pissed. Unfortunately, that appeared to be in the cards. At the very least, she was about to be tortured or experimented on.

Hell, maybe then she could find out why anyone would have gone to the trouble of abducting her.

Carrow was a rare three-caste witch, but she was by no means the most powerful, not like her best friend Mariketa the Awaited. Though overjoyed that Mari hadn't been taken, Carrow didn't understand why she'd been targeted....

What would Ripley do? When in a jam, Carrow often thought of how Ellen Ripley, the legendary badasstress of the Alien "uadrilogy, would figure her way out.

Ripley would analyze the enemy, take stock of her surroundings and resources, use her wits to defeat her foes and escape, then nuke everything in her wake.

Analyze the enemy. From what Carrow had heard from other inmates, this place was run by the Order, a mysterious league of mortal soldiers and scientists led by a magister named Declan Chase, a.k.a. the Blademan, along with his trusty bitch, Dr. Dixon.

Carrow's sorceress cellmate had told her the Order was bent on eradicating all the immortal miscreations, or miscreats.

My surroundings?  A diabolically designed prison, with cells made of foot-thick steel on three sides and unbreakable, two-foot-thick glass on the front. Each cell had four bunks, with a toilet and a sink behind a screen - and no real privacy. The Order recorded their every action from ceiling cams.

This incarceration was like nothing she'd ever known - and she'd known more than her share of two hots and a cot. Carrow hadn't enjoyed a single shower or change of clothes. She still wore her club duds: halter top, black leather miniskirt, and thigh-high boots.

Each day inside brought more shitty food and bad lighting.

Along with experiments on immortals, some of whom were her friends.

Resources? Carrow had precisely zero-point-zero resources. Despite the fact that she could usually charm prison guards, these mortal soldiers seemed immune to her. Except for Fegley, who for some reason appeared to resent her deeply, as if they had a history.

Though each of her steps carried her potentially closer to her demise, she observed as much as she could, determined to escape. Yet one reinforced corridor bulkhead after another doused her hopes of breaking out.

The layout was labyrinthine, the halls riddled with cameras and the cells all booked up. Lykae, Valkyrie, and the noble fey - all allies of a sort - were mixed amid the evil Invidia, fallen vampires, and fire demons.

In one cell, contagious ghouls snapped at each other, tearing at their own yellow skin. In another, succubae wasted away from sexual hunger.

The Order had snared more beings than could be named, many of which were notorious and deadly.

Like the brutal werewolf Uilleam MacRieve. The Lykae were among the physically strongest creatures in the Lore, but with that tor"ue on his neck, Uilleam couldn't access the beast within him.

For fun, the warden rapped the glass with his club. Maddened by the captivity, Uilleam charged, hitting the glass headfirst, splitting his scalp to the skull right before her eyes. The surface was unharmed while blood poured down his tense face.

In the next cell stood a huge berserker, a savage warrior male that Carrow had seen around New Orleans. He looked on the verge of going berserk.

Carrow swallowed to see his neighboring inmate - a Fury, with uncanny violet eyes and bared fangs. The Furies were female avengers, embodiments of wrath. And this one was a rare Archfury, raven-winged and lethal.

The Order certainly didn't pull their punches. Some of the beings here were even infamous. Like the vampire Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, with his white-blond hair and eerily sinister hotness. Whenever the guards sedated him and dragged him down the ward, his pale red eyes promised pain to those who'd dared to touch him.

"Step on it, witch," Fegley said. "Or I'll introduce you to Billy."

"I might like him, heard he's wittier than you are." She gritted her teeth when he shoved her again.

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